'Into The West' campaign to restore North west railway gathering steam decades after tracks lifted

A campaign to reinstate railways across the North West is gathering steam, decades after tracks were lifted.

For over a century trains rattled across the land, linking towns to cities, but that came to a halt in 1965.

The tracks were lifted and left a significant gap in the transport map.

The former railway line that ran through Omagh is now a walkway.

The 'Into The West' lobby group wants to see the line restored.

"We're looking to reopen what we've called the North West Rail Quarter," said Steve Bradley from the group.

"It's a direct line of rail from the North West, beginning in Letterkenny in County Donegal, coming through Derry City, onto Strabane, Omagh, Dungannon to Portadown, where trains would then go either up on to Belfast or south down to Dublin," he added.

Across Tyrone and Fermanagh are old relics of former tracks. Paddy Hunter's connection to the railway dates back to his great grandfather.

"Decisions were taken, probably in the 1950s, to whittle down the lines and the road network has never improved," he said.

"It really was like cutting an artery, cut off everything completely. "It's a heritage thing, but it's more about looking at the now and taking that heritage and moving it on to the future," he added.

The future of rail, North and South of the border, has been examined in an All-Island Railway Review Strategy. The findings can't be released as there's no Northern Ireland Executive.

Steve Bradley explained: "The highest number of contributions on the island didn't come from big places like Dublin or Belfast or Cork.

"The highest number of contributions came from the Fermanagh-Omagh district and the second highest number came from Derry and Strabane.

"We don't think it's acceptable that towns like Omagh should be left without good quality infrastructure in this modern day and age," he added.

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